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Swiss birth registration law stuns NRIs

A new law requires parents to present original birth and marriage certificates to register birth of their children.

india Updated: Sep 11, 2006 14:58 IST

India is exploring ways to resolve an issue arising from a new Swiss law that insists on non-resident Indians (NRIs) presenting their original birth and marriage certificates issued in India to register the birth of their children born in this country.

Visiting Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi assured Indian community representatives during a meeting that the government would consult state chief ministers to find a solution to the matter.

"I have to discuss with the prime minister and other ministries concerned to find a solution to the problem. I will also consult state chief ministers to see how we can solve this issue," Ravi told NRI representatives.

"The Supreme Court of India has issued an order to make birth registrations compulsory. But presenting past documents would be almost impossible," he said replying to concerns of the Diaspora.

The NRIs pointed out that the new Swiss law insists that original marriage and birth certificates of Indian parents be shown to record their child's birth in applying for Swiss nationality.

"The birth certificate issued on the basis of passport details by the Indian embassy in Bern is not accepted. Presenting original certificates would be difficult," said an Indian official.

Embassy officials said that for most of the Indian Diaspora presenting original marriage certificates would be a problem as India did not have a "proper system to issue marriage certificates".

"The government has to take up the matter with the Swiss government through proper channels," said Amitava Tripathi, the Indian ambassador to Switzerland.

The new Swiss law has restricted foreigners, including Indians, from using their Schengen visa to enter other European Union countries, the NRIs pointed out.

"The Swiss government has entered into an agreement with other EU countries under which Schengen visa holders can enter into other countries such as Germany and Austria. But now they say Indians should take a separate visa for it," said Jobinson Kottathil, an NRI community representative.

At the interactive meeting, Ravi also explained the facilities of the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards and People of Indian Origin (PIO) cards.

"The OCI card is not a dual citizenship card. All those who were eligible to become Indian citizens in 1950 can apply for it. It will be a lifetime visa.

"The OCI cardholders will have all the benefits of an Indian citizen except political rights. It would be something like a Green Card in the US," he explained.

To complaints about the delay in issuing PIO or OCI cards, Ravi said that he would take up the matter with the home ministry to expedite its clearance.